Acai bowl surrounded by strawberries, bananas, and granola.

In Brief:

      • Açai bowls are one of the most popular food items…why is that? The reasons are: 1) they taste incredible, 2) they look great, and 3) they are incredibly healthy!
      • The super fruit is making people want to eat healthy food — and the trend keeps growing.
      • Because they are so popular, açai bowl restaurants are popping up everywhere.
      • So now, that is what entrepreneurs want — they want açai bowl restaurants.
      • Entrepreneurs passionate about healthy living are jumping on the opportunities.

Do you want a sweet, frozen treat that is a healthy alternative to ice cream or fro-yo? Then you may want to jump on the açai bowl train. The vibrant colored, fruit-packed meal has become a nationwide food favorite. People ask, what is açai? They want to know what is everyone raving about? So, why is this such a food trend, and most important – how do you open one?

Photo by Lucas Brandão from Pexels

What is açai?  Purple cartoon acai bowl

The starting point is relatively simple – açai is a fruit. And food fanatics can’t get enough of it. The word açai is often mispronounced — it is supposed to be pronounced as AH-SIGH-EE. It originates from the South American rainforests and comes from açai palm trees. The fruit is a small, reddish-purple berry that is chock-full of antioxidants, calcium, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. So not only does it taste good, but it’s spectacularly healthy! It has become a superfood to the degree that has become known as the “purple gold.”

So people ask, why does it look like ice cream, why is it in a bowl, and why is the color so bright – how does it look so good, yet be so healthy? This is how the creamy bowls are made: the berries are soaked until the skin is soft and then mashed up until it turns into a dark, creamy purple blend. So, how does it make people healthy? Well, according to Heathline, the nutrient-rich açai could improve cholesterol levels, boost brain function, and have an anti-cancer effect. Good Housekeeping reported people who eat açai berries — while exercising regularly of course — can lose weight.

Why are açai bowls so popular? Purple cartoon acai bowl

Açai bowls remain a popular food item for these reasons: 1) they taste incredible, 2) they look great, and 3) they are incredibly healthy! Part of the reason it’s so popular is because of social media. It began with people posting pictures of hot food that they love. So people tasted it, and they truly did love it.

The structure of the açai bowl typically looks like this: a thick, açai base, then a layer of granola, and a variety of your favorite fruits on top. The bowl comes together with peanut butter, honey, or Nutella drizzle, or all three if you want!

The super fruit continues to change the healthy food industry, and the trend has not slowed down. According to Forbes, in 2017, açai bowls ranked as the fifth most popular food trend, and the demand for them continues to grow.

Entrepreneurs love this hot food trend, how can I open one? Purple cartoon acai bowl

Açai bowl businesses are everywhere and entrepreneurs wonder: how can I open one of these? There are two options: open an açai bowl business from the ground up, or open an açai bowl franchise. Entrepreneurs decide to open a franchise because of the higher chance of success for their business. If an entrepreneur decides to open an açai bowl franchise, they follow an established, proven business model, they become their own boss and receive continuous corporate support. Listed below are 5 types açai bowl businesses you can open today.

What are the hottest açai bowl businesses I can open? Purple cartoon acai bowl

1) Rush Bowls

The restaurant’s founder, Andrew Pudalov, was one of the first to jump on the trend over a decade ago. Pudalov left his busy finance career in New York City to open a fast-dining, healthy food franchise in Colorado. Rush Bowls’ variety of fruit bowls — all made from all-natural ingredients and proprietary recipes. Rush Bowls offers over 30 signature bowl and smoothie combinations to their customers.  Some of their specialty bowls, besides açai, include pitaya, kale, spinach, avocado, and more. Rush Bowls has 51 franchise outlets across 15 states and Canada, as well as 10 new locations this past year.

Here is the data for this business opportunity (per Rush Bowl’s 2019 FDD):

  • Initial Franchise Fee: $45,000
  • Startup Costs: $235,000 – $577,000

To learn more about Rush Bowls, visit their listing page!

Two acai bowls from Rush Bowls.
Photo: Rush Bowls Facebook Page

2) SoBol

The East-Coast based açai bowl franchise hit the streets of Long Island in 2012, and today the café is recognized as a local favorite. The restaurant specializes in “the better bowl”: this means açai bowls, green bowls, and other healthy alternatives, all blended with fresh ingredients, homemade granola, and all-natural toppings. SolBol’s açai bowls are quick, affordable, and each bowl is made to order.  Each restaurant resembles a community gathering spot and a friendly space. The franchise also promotes its allergen-friendly products — they’ve even dedicated a separate prep station to serve those with food allergies.

SoBol has 37 fully operational locations throughout New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Florida. They are so popular on Long Island that all future locations are sold out! The franchise will open 40 more locations in the Northeast and expand nationwide.

SolBol acai bowl
      Photo: SolBol Franchise Facebook page

3) Vitality Bowls

Roy and Tara Gilad founded Vitality Bowls in 2011 after they discovered their daughter’s severe food allergies. They wanted to find a healthy, safe food alternative for their child, so they decided to open a superfood café in San Ramon, California. In 2014, they started franchising and soon, rapid expansion kicked in. 3.5 million bowls sold and over 75 locations later, Vitality Bowls continues to stand out in the healthy food industry. Although most of their stores are based in California, the franchise will open locations nationwide. They recently opened their first café in Tennessee last month.

Vitality Bowls is more than an açai café, they offer other healthy menu options like paninis, salads, smoothies, soups and more. Açai lovers can also try their graviola, pitaya, and acerola bowls.

Four different acai bowls from Vitality Bowls franchise
Photo: Vitality Bowls website

4) Frutta Bowls

Frutta Bowls started in 2016 as a local açai bowl shop with two locations near Freehold, New Jersey, and today they are open in over 14 states nationwide. Even more impressive, the founder is only 26 years old! In college, Brooke Gagliano studied health, wellness, and sports. After she graduated, she pursued these interests and worked to build a career. She came across an açai bowl place on a trip to the west coast, fell in love with the concept, and just like that, Frutta Bowls was born.

Frutta Bowls offers different kinds of signature açai bowls, all made to order and customized the way you like it. The business also sells pitaya bowls, kale bowls, graviola bowls, and other healthy alternatives like hot oatmeal bowls, toast, and smoothies.

Acai bowl with a variety of food on top and peanut butter drizzle
Photo: Frutta Bowls Facebook page

5) Juice It Up

Founded in 1995, Juice It Up is one of the first franchises to introduce açai and the smoothie bowl concept. For over 20 years, Juice It Up continues to find innovative ways to transform its classic Southern California smoothie franchise and explore new healthy, superfood options.

The Juice It Up menu consists of fresh-squeezed raw juices, fruit and veggie fusions, and fresh, made-to-order smoothie bowls. They have over 100 outlets across California and the Juice It Up family continues to grow.

A Juice It Up acai bowl with acai, granola, and strawberries on top.
Photo: Juice It Up Facebook page

So next time you are on the go and aren’t sure what to get for lunch, you might want to stop at one of these top 5 açai bowl spots for a refreshing, healthy alternative. The açai bowl trend will not slow down any time soon and more of these franchises are popping up nationwide. Now is the prime time to look at açai bowl business opportunities and get involved with this fruitful franchise trend.

By Ana Borruto and Jim Notaris 

Callens Capital